Medical tourism is a system that allows patients to travel outside of their own country for medical treatment. Patients who choose this option often do so because they can save money on surgery costs.
When To Consider Medical Tourism
You should consider medical tourism if you need orthopedic surgery but live in a country with high treatment costs and inadequate surgical facilities.
If you have a condition or injury that calls for medical attention/expertise.
If you are not satisfied with the level of care or treatment available in your own country. If not, there is no guarantee of a proper cure, or worse, the chances of complications might increase.
If you want the experience of being treated in a new environment. Many people who go to other countries for medical care do so because they enjoy the experience of getting to know the locals and becoming immersed in a new culture.
Traveling to another country for orthopedic treatment can be a hassle, but it is often worth it for those who choose that route. It is important to do as much research as possible before choosing a hospital or clinic to make an educated decision about your procedure and recovery time.
Factors To Consider
Not all medical tourism is a good idea. If you are considering traveling abroad for medical treatment, several factors are supposed to be considered before traveling:
1. Significant medical expenses
The more expensive the service, the less likely the patient is to visit another country for health care. Specific treatments like organ transplantation and heart surgery can often be done only in specific locations due to intensive care protocols and the availability of necessary equipment. While it is possible to find cheaper treatment, consider if your current insurance covers costs or if you need to make extra payments for services.
2. The unique medical condition required for treatment
The rare your condition is, the more likely you require expensive treatment. While common procedures may be performed in many countries with sufficient training and equipment, finding a doctor capable of treating your condition may be challenging. For example, if you have a rare skin condition, finding a doctor in the United States who is familiar with this condition may not be possible. Be sure to research the doctors before flying overseas.
3. Expensive procedures
Some healthcare treatments are so expensive that you will need help finding a doctor who can offer them at an affordable price. Some of the more common procedures that are often not available locally include:
- Gastrointestinal Surgery: For certain gastrointestinal surgeries, such as gallbladder removal or stomach and intestines removal, a doctor must be trained in surgery and have access to specific equipment not available in your country.
- Organ Transplantation: Organ transplants are often only available in specific locations due to the training, equipment, and protocols required to perform the surgery.
- Cardiac Surgery: Depending on your condition, you may be able to find cheaper heart surgery in other areas of the world, but there may be better choices for many patients. The training and experience required to perform cardiac surgery vary greatly from country to country.
4. Cost of transportation/accommodation
Unless your procedure is going to be completed within a few days, such as for some dental procedures, traveling for medical care may only sometimes be a good idea. Depending on your country and the procedure you’re undergoing, it may be more cost-effective to drive to another city to visit a doctor rather than fly overseas.
5. Cost of any additional medical care required
Depending on your medical condition, it may also be advantageous to have someone accompany you for medical care. Additional costs not covered by your insurance policies may be incurred if you require an MRI or blood test while in another country.
6. Your insurance company and payment issues
Remember that you may need to make additional payments for medical care outside your country. If your insurance does not cover treatment abroad, you will have to pay for the entire cost of your treatment. Some doctors even take credit cards; however, the service fees and currency exchange rates may be high.
7. Potential infection risks from traveling abroad
Even if your healthcare provider assures you that there are no serious medical risks, it’s best always to be prepared. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that over 6 million people travel abroad annually. While most malaria cases and other diseases are curable, other potential infections can occur through medical treatment — including hepatitis or typhoid — or contaminated water.
8. General safety of traveling in different locations for treatment
Depending on your destination and travel preference, you should also consider the general safety of traveling for medical care. If you are in a high-risk area, take the necessary precautions to protect yourself. If you plan on traveling in an area with a high crime rate or a bad reputation, you may want to go during the day. Alternatively, evening appointments may be easier if you’re looking for medical care outside your country and prefer to relax during your vacation.
9. Obesity in height ratio to weight ratio for surgery/treatment
Many procedures, like surgery, can be uncomfortable if the patient is too heavy. Be sure to research the height and weight requirements for your procedure. If patients are within the guidelines for their procedure and not too heavy, there shouldn’t be any problems getting treatment outside your country.
What are the potential upsides or downsides of Medical Tourism?
There are several upsides to medical tourism. Sometimes the cost differences are great, although there are exceptions, and prices can also be high in other countries. For example, the average total knee replacement in India costs $3,500 US dollars, while the average total knee replacement in the United States costs over $30,000 US dollars. In some cases, a procedure is better or available in another country that isn’t available at all at home or is only available at a higher cost at home. Though it might be worth the cost if you have an extremely reputable specialist, a good example would be Integrated Orthopedics.
There are some downsides to medical tourism as well. It can be hard to verify whether the quality of the care will be as good as it would be at home. Sometimes you must travel a long distance, go through many red tapes and even stay in another country for treatment, which can be inconvenient and stressful. You might need help communicating with doctors who speak a different language or medical staff unfamiliar with your medical history. Traveling to other countries can also be expensive, so not everyone can afford it. You may have to deal with a language barrier or a different cultural background that you aren’t used to.
What are the risks?
For anyone considering medical tourism, there are some risks to consider as well. This can be a very risky treatment method for people who do not speak the local language and have trouble communicating with doctors. Some medical staff members might take advantage of them in some ways. These risks should be taken into account when considering medical tourism.
If you have had a previous surgical procedure, there may be some risks of infection in another country, or the surgery is less effective in another country. There are also risks involved with anesthesia and emergency care if something goes wrong during the procedure. Some people might also avoid traveling to other countries for medical care because of political uncertainty in those countries. These are all risks you will want to consider before deciding on medical tourism for yourself.